In a committee meeting held last week, state legislators from both parties began moving forward on plans introduced by state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, to help farm workers and residents of Apopka.
Apopka is a community outside of Orlando that is facing a serious health crisis that has caught the attention of health researchers, health providers and policy-makers. Apopka has a large population of seasonal farm workers and minorities.
Siplin explained during last week’s Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations hearing that the mostly African-American resident’s of Apopka were sprayed with pesticides some years ago. These residents, he explained, have been suffering through the health effects of that in the past few years.
“A lot of them have Lupus, Rheumatoid fever, cancer…” he explained. “They almost have a funeral every Saturday.”
Siplin invited Mark Dickinson, CFO and interim CEO of the Apopka Community Health Center, to present one of the initiatives Siplin has undertaken to help the Apopka community.
Both Siplin and Dickinson asked the legislators to move forward with plans that would allow the health center to treat incoming patients for both health and dental issues during one visit. Current patients have to make separate appointments.
Though a small fix, the move would be a big help to patients who cannot take time off from work for two appointments. The measure is one of the many projects Siplin says he has committed to for Apopka during the upcoming legislative session.
As of last week, Siplin’s proposal has the support and interest of state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City. Negron is the chair of the budget committee for health care services.
This past May, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $500,000 from the the state budget that was set aside to provide specialized health care to the many at-risk migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the Apopka area.
Scott’s office says it is too early to make any comment on whether the governor would possibly support funding this time around.
According to research from the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, the Apopka community is facing a wide-range of serious health problems, many of which are attributed to “chronic pesticide exposure and insufficient pesticide safety training.” The UCF study warns that the pesticides present “a highly prevalent problem that is related to both chronic and acute conditions and generational adverse effects.”
Besides helping the Apopka’s community health center, Siplin is working with waste management to work out ways to reduce the noxious odor that plagues the area. He says he is working to have trees planted around the landfills, and to increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables for the farm workers and other residents of the area.